The Nebraska hospital treating Ebola patient Ashoka Mukpo said that he is scheduled on Wednesday to receive the same convalescent serum from the same donor – Ebola survivor Kent Brantly – as American doctor Rick Sacra received several weeks ago.
Mukpo, a freelance cameraman who was diagnosed with Ebola while working for the network in Liberia, will receive some of Brantly's blood as part of his treatment against the virus at the Nebraska Medical Center.
In September, Brantly, an American doctor, donated some of his plasma to Sacra, who was also treated at the Nebraska Medical Center.
In what the hospital called “an amazing stroke of luck,” Brantly was traveling through the Midwest on Tuesday on his way to Texas. He is scheduled to speak later this week at his alma mater, Abilene Christian University, according to Samaritan’s Purse, the international relief organization for which Brantly was working when he contracted Ebola at a missionary hospital in Liberia. Brantly later was flown to Atlanta for treatment and released in August.
Brantly was driving through Kansas City on Tuesday when he received a call from Angela Hewett, associate medical director of the biocontainment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center, where Sacra was treated and where Mukpo currently is being treated. Remarkably, Brantly’s blood type matched Mukpo’s blood type, just as it had with Sacra. Brantly stopped at a facility in Kansas City to give his blood, which was then flown to Omaha.
“It’s not a likely scenario that he would again have the same blood type,” Hewett said in a statement released by the hospital. “We are incredibly grateful that that Dr. Brantly would take the time to do this, not once, but twice.”
In a statement to NBC, Mukpo's father, Mitchell Levy, called Brantly's donation an act of "kindness and generosity" that "makes me believe in the goodness of humanity."
The theory behind the transfusion treatment is this: The blood of an Ebola survivor should carry antibodies of the virus. By giving a current Ebola patient an injection of a compatible amount of blood plasma from someone who recovered from the disease, those antibodies could help the patient fight the virus.
In September, a panel of World Health Organization experts said such transfusions were a promising direction for experimental treatments against Ebola, and one that officials working in West Africa should pursue.
Like many Westerners who have contracted the illness, Brantly, Sacra and Mukpo all received experimental treatments -- often more than one -- against Ebola. Brantly, the first Westerner repatriated to the United States for treatment during the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, received the blood of a young Ebola survivor he'd treated in Liberia, along with the experimental drug zMapp.
Sacra was treated with Brantly's blood and the drug TKM-Ebola.
Mukpo is receiving an experimental drug called brincidofovir. It is the same drug given in Dallas to Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was diagnosed with Ebola after traveling to the United States. Duncan died on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Samaritan’s Purse on Wednesday said Brantly had been contacted by the Dallas hospital treating Duncan to see if he would also be willing to donate blood to him, should their blood types match. Brantly said he definitely would be willing to do so but never heard back after that.
“The assumption is they weren’t a match,” said Samaritan’s Purse spokesman Jeremy Blume. “He was never contacted again.”
More than 3,800 people have died from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, according to the WHO, and there have been more than twice as many total cases reported in the region.
[this post has been updated]